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Five Great Chess Movies

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Over the years, there have been numerous movies about chess, with some becoming much more famous than others. These range from biopics about famous chess players to dramas about the struggle between chess titans. Chess is a natural way for filmmakers to express conflict and mental warfare, so it's no surprise that it has been - and remains - a classic theme in film.

The following list only includes movies that are about chess - not those that simply include chess in them at some point. As an added bonus, Netflix users can (with one temporary exception, at the time of this writing) find all of these movies through that service, and most are likely available through most other distribution channels as well. Enjoy!

1. Searching for Bobby Fischer

I’ve talked about this movie before, but it certainly warrants another mention on this list. This film (based on a book by Fred Waitzkin, the father of the film’s subject) is a fictionalized account of the rise of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin. Josh, a seven-year-old boy in New York City, quickly shows a talent for the game and becomes one of the best young players in the United States. But not all is well when Josh begins to find that success doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with happiness. Searching for Bobby Fischer is especially notable for its cast, which includes Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley and Laurence Fishburne in significant roles.

2. Chess: In Concert

I might be cheating a little bit here but the filmed version of Chess: The Musical is still worth checking out. Chess has long been a popular (if troubled) production, with the music of ABBA that fills the show remaining popular to this day. Chess: In Concert features a 2008 performance with the leads being played by luminaries such as Josh Groban and Idina Menzel.

3. Chess Fever

This 1925 classic from the Soviet Union is a silent film, but any serious fan of chess will get plenty of enjoyment out of this. The movie follows a man who is obsessed with chess – an obsession that threatens to end his marriage. Luckily, while spending time at the Moscow 1925 chess tournament, he is able to recruit the help of World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca, who saves the happy couple. Many other chess greats were at the tournament and can be seen during the film, including Emanuel Lasker, Frank Marshall and Richard Reti.

4. Brooklyn Castle

This documentary tells the story of the chess team at Intermediate School 318 (I.S. 318), a public middle school in Brooklyn that has developed into one of the most successful scholastic chess programs in the country. The film follows the team around for a year, allowing the audience to see the triumphs and struggles of the children, teachers and the school itself. This movie is currently awaiting availability on DVD (and on Netflix), but it will also be receiving a theatrical re-release in October 2012 (after which it should be available for home release).

5. Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine

The matches between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue captured the public’s attention in a way few other chess matches have. In this documentary, you’ll get to go behind the scenes and head the perspective o Kasparov and his team as well as the Deep Blue team. The film deals a lot with Kasparov’s belief that IBM cheated during the match by providing human assistance at critical moments.

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